The role of reward in the neurogenetics of resilience

Primary Supervisor:  Associate Professor Justine Gatt

Chair of Supervisory Panel: Assoc Prof Bruce Christensen (ANU Research School of Psychology)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Alison Calear (Centre for Mental Health Research, ANU)

Rebecca’s research program aims to provide preliminary evidence into the cognitive mechanisms of resilience, paving the way for more detailed exploration into associated neural circuitry and the genetic heritability versus environmental impact of reward functioning in resilience in healthy populations. Results have the potential to better elucidate the role of reward mechanisms in resilience to trauma. In turn, these findings may assist in the development of innovative interventions aimed at optimising wellbeing in vulnerable populations.

Specifically, this project will assess the precise role of reward in the resilience process, relative to other core neural networks including executive and emotional functioning. The particular role of reward sensitivity and different paradigms of measurement will be considered in samples of both young adults and adult twin samples. The project also includes an examination of the resilience process during the naturalistic stressor of academic examinations.

The aims of the project include:

  1. To establish proof of concept for the role of reward in resilience by defining the cognitive mechanisms underpinning resilience to trauma.
  1. To profile the genetic heritability versus environmental influences of reward functioning.
  1. To identify methodological similarities and differences across traditional self-report and task-based reward paradigms in an effort to increase cross-disciplinary conversation in the study of resilience.
  1. To investigate aspects of reward functioning in resilience that may be subject to manipulation or intervention to the benefit of vulnerable populations.